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HRH The Duke of Cornwall, The Duke of Rothesay

The next title I will examine is that of Duke. A duke (male) or duchess (female) can be a confusing title. A duke can be a monarch ruling over a duchy in their own right with sovereignty equal to that of a king or queen, though duke has been considered lesser title. A duke can also be a titled or a member of royalty or nobility, historically of highest rank below the monarch. The title originates comes from the Latin dux, which translates to “leader” a title first applied a military commander in Roman Republic who otherwise to did not have an official rank (particularly one of Germanic or Celtic origin). As the title and position evolved a duke came to mean the leading military commander of a province.

Duchy and dukedom

A duchy is the territory or geopolitical entity ruled by a duke. In Continental Europe (France, Holy Roman Empire, German Empire etc) a duchy was often a Sovereign or semi-Sovereign state where the ruling duke was the monarch. In the English system the title of duke has never been associated with independent rule in the British Isles. Therefore a duke was a title of nobility, called a dukedom, not duchy (excepting the Duchy of Cornwall and the Duchy of Lancaster, more on that later), and the holder did not rule over a territory, and as the political system evolved a duke was allowed to be a member of the House of Lords.

In Anglo-Saxon England, after the Roman Legions exited Britain the typical Roman political divisions were largely ignored and the highest political rank beneath that of king was ealdorman. The title ealdormen were referred to as duces (the plural of the original Latin dux). However, gradually with the Danish invasions of England the title ealdorman was replaced by the Danish eorl (later earl). After the Norman conquest, their power and regional jurisdiction was limited to that of the Norman counts. The titles of Earl and Baron became the most dominant until the reign of Edward III of England (1227-1277).

Edward III created the first English dukedom when he created his eldest son Edward, the Black Prince, Prince of Wales, as Duke of Cornwall in 1337. This creation was motivated by the loss of the title Duke of Normandy by the king. After the death of the Black Prince, the duchy of Cornwall passed to his nine-year-old son, who would eventually succeed his grandfather as Richard II.

The title of Duke of Lancaster was created by Edward III in 1351 for Henry of Grosmont, 4th Earl of Lancaster, a great-grandson of Henry III in the male line. He died in 1361 without a male heir and the peerage expired. The second creation was on November 13, 1362, for John of Gaunt, 1st Earl of Richmond, who was both the 1st Duke of Lancaster’s son-in-law and also fourth son of King Edward III. John had married Blanche of Lancaster, 6th Countess of Lancaster, daughter of Henry Grosmont and heiress to his estates. On the same day Edward III also created his second son, Lionel of Antwerp, as Duke of Clarence.

All five of Edward III’s surviving sons were created dukes but the last two were made duke’s by Edward III’s grandson and successor, Richard II. In 1385, Richard II invested his last two uncles with dukedoms on the same day. Thomas of Woodstock was named Duke of Gloucester and Edmund of Langley became Duke of York. From the Dukes of Lancaster and Dukes of York came the Houses of Lancaster and York respectively who’s descendants battled for the throne during the Wars of the Roses.

By 1483, a total of 16 ducal titles had been created: Those associated with the Royal Family were; Cornwall, Lancaster, Clarence, Gloucester, and York. Those dukedoms established for the nobility were; Ireland, Hereford, Aumale, Exeter, Surrey, Norfolk, Bedford, Somerset, Buckingham, Warwick and Suffolk. Some dukedoms became extinct, others had multiple creations, and those associated with the Royal Family merged with the crown upon the holder’s accession to the throne.

Charles Lennox, 1st Duke of Richmond, 1st Duke of Lennox, 1st Duke of Aubigny (illegitimate son of Charles II, King of England, Scotland and Ireland. (July 29, 1672 – May 27, 1723)

In the United Kingdom, the inherited position of a duke along with its dignities, privileges, and rights is a dukedom. However, Dukes in the United Kingdom are addressed as “Your Grace” and referred to as “His Grace”. Currently, there are thirty-five dukedoms in the Peerage of England, Peerage of Scotland, Peerage of Great Britain, Peerage of Ireland and Peerage of the United Kingdom, held by thirty different people, as three people hold two dukedoms and one holds three

Royal Dukedoms

A Royal Duke is a duke who is a member of the British Royal Family, entitled to the style of “His Royal Highness”. The current Royal Dukedoms are, in order of precedence:
* Duke of Lancaster, held by Elizabeth II
* Duke of Edinburgh, held by Prince Philip
* Duke of Cornwall (England) and Duke of Rothesay (Scotland), held by Prince Charles, Prince of Wales
* Duke of York, held by Prince Andrew
* Duke of Cambridge held by Prince William
* Duke of Sussex held by Prince Harry
* Duke of Gloucester, held by Prince Richard
* Duke of Kent, held by Prince Edward (who should not be confused with the Earl of Wessex)
With the exceptions of the dukedoms of Cornwall and Rothesay (which can only be held by the eldest son of the Sovereign), royal dukedoms are hereditary, according to the terms of the Letters Patent that created them, which usually contain the standard remainder to the “heirs male of his body”. The British monarch also holds and is entitled to the revenues of the Duchy of Lancaster, and within the borders of the County Palatine of Lancashire is by tradition saluted as “The Duke of Lancaster”. Even when the monarch is a Queen regnant, she does not use the title of Duchess.

Forms of address

* Begin: My Lord Duke
* Address: His Grace the Duke of _____
* Speak to as: Your Grace (formal and employees), Duke (social)
* Ceremonial, formal, or legal title: The Most High, Noble and Potent Prince His Grace [forename], Duke of _____


A British or Irish Duke is entitled to a coronet (a silver-gilt circlet, chased as jewelled but not actually gemmed) bearing eight conventional strawberry leaves on the rim of the circlet. The physical coronet is worn only at coronations. Any peer can bear his coronet of rank on his coat of arms above the shield.